I recently had someone ask me why I need to study in order to teach Bible study, saying, “Don’t you already know the Bible inside and out?” I recall a similar question when I was pastoring wondering why I needed to prepare a sermon: “Can’t you just preach from the heart?” While I (we) need to teach and preach from the heart, not just from head knowledge, I (we) must also obey the command to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). If we are going to accurately and clearly teach God’s Word, it requires work—lots of study, research and prayer. My wife and I spend many hours in preparation for the Bible studies we teach.
Teaching God’s Word is an amazing privilege but also a very weighty responsibility. We need to be careful to teach what a passage really says by looking at the context, setting, cultural background, words used, and comparing it with other Scriptures, for God’s Word cannot say two things; i.e., it cannot contradict itself. Since we are going to be having an influence on others, it is so important that we are directing them toward the truth, and not misleading them. We will give an account before God for our teaching. That’s why James 3:1 says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”
The Scriptures are full of warnings about false teachers who lead people away from the truth (Mt. 7:15-23; 24:3-5,11; II Cor. 11:13-15; I Tim. 4:1,2; II Tim. 3:13; 4:1-4; II Pet. 2:1-3). There are also tests given to detect whether or not someone is a false teacher (I Jn. 4:1-6; 5:1; II Jn. 7-11; Jude 3,4,8-16; Rev. 22:18,19). There may be some variations of interpretation of Scripture among those of us who teach God’s Word, but when it comes to the core doctrines of Scripture—the Triune Godhead, the deity of Christ, the atoning work of Christ, the inspiration of all Scripture, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—we must be rock solid. Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I AM (He) you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). We must believe that He is indeed GOD (Jehovah) incarnate (Jn. 1:1-3,14). We must believe that “Jesus Christ (Messiah) has come in the flesh” (I Jn. 4:2). And we must believe that He is “the way, and the truth and the life” and that no one can come to the Father but through Him (Jn. 14:6 cf Acts 4:12). We must believe that we are saved solely through faith in Christ and His work and not by any works on our part (Eph. 2:8,9; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5,6).
One of the reasons it is so important for each of us to continue to spend time in God’s Word on a daily basis is so that we can detect false teaching when we hear it. One of the ways bank tellers are trained to spot counterfeit currency is to handle and examine the genuine bills to become very familiar with the real thing. As followers of Christ, we need to do the same regarding the truths of God’s Word. The Apostle Paul complemented the believers at Berea that “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things (that Paul had taught!) were so” (Acts 17:11).
Not only are we to continue in the Word, reading, studying and meditating on it (cf Josh. 1: 8) in order to know what it teaches and to be able to detect false teaching, but we do it in order to get to know God better, for the Bible is really all about God and His wonderful plan of redemption through the sacrifice of God the Son in our place. The more time we spend in His Word, the more we see His character and His love and the more we see our sin and the need for His work in our lives. When we both “read and heed,” our lives are being changed little by little into the image of Christ (cf Ro. 8:28,29). Our love for God is growing and when we do teach others, we are teaching not only from head knowledge of what we have learned, but from our heart in what we have personally experienced. You cannot be a growing Christian if you are not spending regular, quality time in His Word. Paul said, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Ro. 10:17). It is God’s Word that helps our faith to grow. In order not to fall away from our steadfastness, we need to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:17,18).
The Psalmist gives us some other benefits of being in God’s Word and meditating on it and memorizing verses that really speak to us or meet a need in our life. He wrote: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word…Thy word I have treasured (hid) in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Psa. 119:9,11); “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path…The unfolding of Thy words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (vv. 105,130).
The Apostle Paul, in writing to encourage young Timothy to be diligent in his study of Scripture (II Tim. 2:15), went on to say, “All Scripture is inspired by God (God breathed) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16,17).
The Bible is unique; it is unlike any other piece of literature ever written, “For the word of God is living and active (powerful) and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow; and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). We study it, not to satisfy our curiosity and to just gain knowledge; we study it that it might transform our lives—and it does. God cleanses us “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). Like the manna in the wilderness that was life sustaining and needed to be collected daily, so God’s Word is our “daily bread” to bring and sustain life. Study the Bible to be wise; believe it to be safe; practice it to be holy. If your study of God’s Word does not affect the way you live, either you are already perfect (not!), or are not studying correctly (with a heart for God). Bible study is meant to be a sanctuary, not a factory—it is worship! Have you worshiped today?
And that’s why I continue to study the Bible!